House Approves Legislation to Improve Environmental Protections and Save Jobs

October 14, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a common-sense new approach to regulation today that will improve environmental protections while protecting jobs and access to affordable electricity. H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, provides for the safe management and disposal of coal ash in a way that preserves jobs and encourages recycling. The legislation passed the House with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 267 to 144.

H.R. 2273, introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), creates a state-based program that sets enforceable federal standards for coal ash. The legislation provides a practical alternative to the EPA's proposed plan to regulate coal ash under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  EPA proposed two variations of a plan to replace state oversight with federal regulations, one of which would regulate coal ash as though it were hazardous. These heavy-handed approaches will threaten beneficial use and put what some estimates show to be hundreds of thousands of jobs in jeopardy.

The recycling and beneficial use of coal ash materials keeps utility costs low, provides for low-cost durable construction materials, and reduces waste. H.R. 2273 gives states the flexibility they need to preserve their beneficial reuse programs and helps keep costs low for American business and families. 

"House Republicans do not oppose regulation. We want clean air and water for our children and grandchildren as much as Democrats do. But it must be responsible regulation that protects jobs. This legislation does just that. Congress won't pass President Obama's jobs bill, but let's pass this one," said McKinley.

The bill passed with an amendment offered by Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), which strengthens the bill's environmental protections and preserves the right of states to implement more stringent regulations.

"The proposed designation of coal ash as a hazardous waste by the EPA is not supported by the science. A hazardous waste designation would be extremely harmful to our nation's economy.  With 50 percent of our nation's electricity generated by coal, all of those utility customers would see higher rates if this designation was made.  In addition, coal ash is used in the domestic manufacturing of concrete products and construction materials.  Without the availability of coal ash, the cost of those products would also rise," said Shimkus. "This Administration continues to harm the economy with their overreaching regulations.  This legislation simply allows the states to regulate coal ash and sets guidelines for the states to follow."

The bipartisan legislation received endorsements from a wide-array of stakeholders and state regulators. The Environmental Council of the States lent its support to the bill, stating that it "ensures that states will regulate Coal Combustion Residuals under federal standards with a maximum of flexibility, preservation of the rights of states to be more stringent, and in a manner which will assure the quickest implementation."

Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commended Rep. McKinley for his leadership and urged his colleagues to vote in favor of the legislation, which he called a new approach. "It's Congress setting the standards and the states making sure they are met as the states know best how to do," said Upton.

Watch Upton's remarks on the House floor here.